Tell-tales can also be attached to a sail, used as a guide when trimming (adjusting) a sail. On the mainsail tell-tales are on the leech (aft edge) and when trimmed properly should be streaming backwards. On the jib there are tell-tales on both sides of the luff of the sail. As a general guide, the windward tell-tale should stream aft (backwards) with an occasional lift, the leeward front tell-tale should stream aft.
A tell-tale is also a series of ropes suspended over the tracks above the height of a boxcar. These ropes are intended to give warning to a brakeman on the roof of the train that the train is approaching a low-clearance obstacle, such as a tunnel or a bridge. A Chesapeake and Ohio Railway tell-tale had 17 of these ropes hanging from a tube suspended across the track, the bottom of the ropes 12" lower than the height of the obstruction, and placed 100 to 300 feet before the obstruction.
More formally, a tell-tale of a member L of some language class is a finite subset of L such that no other language containing the subset in the class is a proper subset of L. In other words, a tell-tale is a finite subset that makes a language being a minimal consistent one in the class. The term is used in the field of artificial intelligence and machine language learning as well as linguistics. See also, Language identification in the limit